By Debbie Roland, Master Gardener
Good news! Potatoes will grow even when conditions are less than perfect. Like most vegetables potatoes that are home grown will be tastier than store bought.
They should be planted now (February to mid-March) or three weeks before last frost.
Pick a location that has full sun and well drained soil. The soil needs to be loose since the potato is a rooting plant.
Buy seed potatoes and cut them into chunks that have at least two eyes in each piece. Wait five days to plant which allows them to form a protective layer on the surface. Plant smaller potatoes whole (if they are the size of a golf ball or smaller).
Dig a trench 8” deep and fill it with 3” of compost.
Potatoes need adequate fertilizer early in the season. Use a 10-20-10 fertilizer in the rows at least 1” inch below the seed piece. Do not allow the fertilizer to touch the seed piece.
Place potatoes in the trench 8” apart. The cut side should be facing down with the “eyes” facing up. The plants will start to grow in about 12 to 16 days and you will need to continue adding soil around each plant as it grows which is calling “hilling”.
Keep it well watered. They require 1-2” of water per week. If it hasn’t rained you will need to make up for that with supplemental watering.
Typically it takes about 10 weeks for the plants to produce tubers large enough to harvest. Mark you calendar the day you plant and the day you think tubers should be ready.
About this time the leaves will turn yellow and begin to die back. This is when you need to quit watering which will help start the curing process for harvest. Gently dig around the plant to remove the potatoes. Harvest only the big ones and leave the rest to grow. There should be five to ten potatoes per plant, depending on the variety and the care your garden is given.
If you are going to keep your potatoes in storage and not eat them at harvest, they should be allowed to dry. Simply harvest them and leave them unwashed and laying in your garden on the ground for three days. The skin will “harden off” which is required for storage. If it rains during this three days they should be moved to a dry protected place.
To store, move them to a cool dry place.
Please contact the AgriLife office in Odessa at 498-4071 or in Midland at 686-4700 for more gardening information.